Since his return from war, the Duke of Ashbury’s to-do list has been short and anything but sweet: brooding, glowering, menacing London ne’er-do-wells by night. Now there’s a new item on the list. He needs an heir—which means he needs a wife. When Emma Gladstone, a vicar’s daughter turned seamstress, appears in his library wearing a wedding gown, he decides on the spot that she’ll do.
His terms are simple:
- – They will be husband and wife by night only.
- – No lights, no kissing.
- – No questions about his battle scars.
– Last, and most importantly… Once she’s pregnant with his heir, they need never share a bed again.
But Emma is no pushover. She has a few rules of her own:
- – They will have dinner together every evening.
- – With conversation.
- – And unlimited teasing.
– Last, and most importantly… Once she’s seen the man beneath the scars, he can’t stop her from falling in love…
When Lime offered me the chance to get my greedy little hands on The Duchess Deal early, I was all over it (my eyes might have even misted over). So first and foremost, thank you Lime 😀
We have two characters that couldn’t be more wrong for each other turning out to be exactly what each needs in a partner. Ash is scarred, jaded, self absorbed, and frankly a bit depressed; he knows his duty and is ready to fulfill it. Emma is used to hard work and grasping for every opportunity that comes her way while never losing her positive outlook and caring nature. They fit beautifully.
The Duchess Deal opens with Emma Gladstone wearing the The Duke of Ashbury’s (Ash) ex-fiance’s wedding gown to demand payment for services rendered, and the duke writing his team of solicitors about his need for a wife. What happens next is pure gold.
“He was blinded. Not by her beauty—though he supposed she might be beautiful. It wasn’t possible to judge. Her gown was an eye-stabbing monstrosity of pearls, lace, brilliants, and beads. Good Lord. He wasn’t accustomed to being in the same room with something even more repulsive than his own appearance.”
It only gets funnier from there:
“Good Lord, it’s as though a draper’s shop exploded and you were the first casualty.” “Miss Worthing wanted something fit for a duchess.” “That gown,” he said, “is fit for a bawdy-house chandelier.” “Well, your intended had . . . extravagant preferences.” He leaned forward in his chair. “I can’t even take the whole thing in. It looks like unicorn vomit. Or the pelt of some snow beast rumored to menace the Himalayas.”
Once the first meeting is over and the proposal is made, Emma sees the wisdom in accepting Ash’s offer and they’re married rather quickly. This is where we learn of both Emma’s backstory and Ash’s true character.
Sadly, Emma’s story was probably rather common (overlooking the marrying a duke part) it’s how she handled herself that sets her apart. While she accepts what life has dealt her, she knows she can have better and she uses every tool available to her to get what she wants. She’s never greedy or malicious and her good heart shines through in everything she does. Emma is one of my favorite heroines of 2017!
Ash was badly scarred in the war and after the arduous healing process, is made painfully aware of just how hideous his intended thinks he is. He releases her from the betrothal and with basically withdraws from society. While it seems easy to put Ash into a box, as the story unfolds we see more of the man he really is and just how badly other people’s reactions shaped his self worth. I liked Ash and I really enjoyed his journey to happy. Unfortunately for Ash, Ms. Dare wrote another disfigured reclusive Duke who has my heart in a different book (Ransom from Romancing the Duke) and I couldn’t help but compare the two. [This reflects more on me than the book or Tessa Dare to be sure!]
Emma and Ash aren’t the only ones with page time. Just like in real life, no one is an island in a Tessa Dare book. The friends that Emma (and later Ash) made, the servants, the cat, even the nasty ex-fiance are all wonderfully fleshed out characters. You’ll find no placeholders or obligatory *insert random ton character or cartoonish villain here* in this (or any other Tessa Dare book).
As Emma and Ash navigate the waters of a marriage of convenience and battle softer feelings for the person they’re not supposed to be, there are subplots happening all around. The reader never feels that any one thing is outweighing the others, everything that is going on is in your mind as well as Emma and Ash’s. I love a book that keeps me wholly engrossed in all aspects of the story, The Duchess Deal definitely kept my rapt attention (both times I read it).
With a wonderful cast of characters, the right amount of angst, quips that kept me laughing at inappropriate times in public, and as sweet of a happily ever after as you could want, I highly recommend The Duchess Deal! Tessa Dare never fails to delight.